Almost a month ago, I wrote a story about investing in Japan as part of the Fool's international investing series. I still like that piece and a number of the Japanese companies mentioned in it, but in the past two weeks I've seen similar lines of thought being espoused on CNBC and various monthly and biweekly financial rags.

The point here isn't that we beat the big boys to the punch. That's hardly the case. In fact, a good case could be made that the stories the mainstream financial press published were in process well before the one I wrote. That's simply the difference between online and print publication schedules. Instead I'm concerned, because so many people are coming to the same conclusion at the same time. You might say my inner contrarian is a bit worried.

My fear here is that investors will run out and purchase the most recognized Japanese companies that are available as American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). Companies such as Toyota (NYSE:TM), Honda (NYSE:HMC), and Canon (NYSE:CAJ) are all great companies, but running out and buying them because Japan is currently the "in thing" could spell trouble. A bump in Japan's recovery could lead to a sharp correction in these stocks, and investors who bought in near the short term top may panic and sell out at the worst moment.

Instead of investing in Japan based on current price momentum, an investment in a Japanese company should be evaluated based on the same value criteria used to evaluate investments in American or European markets. What I mean here is that any investment should be made only if the price of a company's shares is lower than one's estimate of the long-term potential of the company's business, or, in some cases, the current value of the company. This means ignoring that Kao, a company I mentioned in my write-up, is up nearly 15% in the past month, and instead focusing on the company's future business prospects and current valuation.

One item I didn't mention in my piece but that certainly offers a valid way of capitalizing on Japan's recovery is investing in the country through a mutual fund. This strategy can work, but as with any mutual fund, investors should pay attention to expense ratios and other fees, as well as the competence of the fund's manager. In addition, many investors may find that a diversified international fund is better suited to their needs than is a Japan-specific fund. For ideas here, I recommend checking out our Motley Fool Champion Funds service, which has recommended a number of solid international funds.

Investing internationally should be done to broaden the potential number of attractive investment opportunities and for diversification purposes. At the end of the day, the goal of investing internationally and in Japan is the same as investing domestically, which is to make money. Whether you do that by investing in a Japanese company like Sony (NYSE:SNE) or an American company like Gap (NYSE:GPS) isn't all that important.

For related international Foolishness:

Gap is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

Fools, now is the time to open your hearts and wallets to worthy causes! Please support our five Foolish charities at www.foolanthropy.com.

Nathan Parmelee owns shares in Canon but has no financial stake in any of the other companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.